Insight Blog

Space Planning for a Hybrid Work Model

Space Planning for a Hybrid Work Model Pre-pandemic, the majority of employees were assigned dedicated office space, regardless of how many days were spent traveling or in offsite meetings. At the height of the pandemic, when many organizations were operating fully remotely, there was an opportunity to collect direct feedback from employees, and results showed interest in preserving a more flexible working scenario. The phrase “hybrid work model,” which describes a combination of in-office and remote work, has become regularly used. Mainstream media outlets often publish content on this topic as organizations consider whether it should be implemented as part of their business practices.

A significant percentage of employees realize the advantages that working from home offers them. For example, greater interaction with family members, the ability to incorporate exercise and other self-care practices into daily routines, and the elimination of a commute. Additionally, some people choose to devote time to their professional to-do lists before or after traditional 8-to-5 hours.

Coming into an office, however, allows for in-person collaboration with colleagues, and getting face time with organization management can have a positive effect on career development. It can also be a welcome complement to working from home, and it is preferred by some employees who benefit from a dedicated and structured environment. The takeaway is that a hybrid work model gives employees a choice. That helps with retention, and it helps with attracting new talent, providing an organization’s policies are outlined and consistently communicated.

While popular, this new work model can leave decision makers wondering what strategies are best for managing space during changing times now and into the future. Facility Executive Magazine recently hosted a webinar on hybrid occupancy strategies for facility leaders. HubStar, the company that presented it, “designs, builds, sells, and services technology platforms that deliver an ever-improving workplace experience in a hybrid working world.” Technology that captures and measures utilization data provides leaders with information to help achieve agility in portfolio rationalization.

During the online seminar, the company representative cited one example of a person who typically comes into the office two days per week but will be on a leave of absence for six weeks and another example of someone who works the majority of their week at home but will be attending a series of meetings nearby and will need space several days during that week. There is the option of using technology to “book” space. Rather than setting reoccurring bookings, it provides flexibility for changes in schedules week to week, and it accounts for the fluctuation of colleagues who are going be in on different days. 
Instead of maintaining space that is underutilized, the technology can help to assess the entire picture. Within a hybrid work model, are more people in need of collaborative space or space to focus on individual work? Users can play back utilization data from a selected period of time and overlay it on top of a floor plan to visually see what areas are being used more than others. Data can then help dictate the size of rooms needed and placement of office furniture in those rooms. It can also help decision makers determine in what spaces to dedicate more resources.

In addition to the utilization factor, there are health and safety regulations that have become part of a regular routine during unpredictable times. Use of this technology eliminates reliance on security logs and card swipes to determine what days employees may be gravitating toward in-office work and thereby what days may be overpopulated. A trend analysis reviews data from a selected period of time and displays it as patterns of use to show whether more people are coming into the office and when they are. Instead of requiring installation of its own sensors to begin, the technology can integrate with hardware sensors already deployed, or it can collect data from the organization’s wi-fi infrastructure, using algorithms to track space usage based on the number and time of connected devices. 

Space scheduling software offers users a smart experience by sharing colleagues’ schedules and the space they have reserved in order to recommend what space employees should select. It can increase the ratio of person-to-workspace by double if two people use a space on alternate days, or by even greater numbers if scheduling is set up based on two-hour intervals. Most importantly, some organizations have recognized an opportunity to downsize their overall space. This not only equates to cost savings but also to a reduction in energy usage and carbon emissions, contributing to sustainability initiatives.

As more organizations are adopting a hybrid work model and implementing related technology, the need for individuals to manage space planning is growing. Compared to other jobs, space planners have a growth rate described as "much faster than average" at 11% between the years 2018 - 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, a recent 2022 query for “space planner” roles within the United States returned 11,614 results on LinkedIn Jobs. 

If your organization has a current hiring need for a space planner or any questions about market trends, please contact us to connect with a Helbling search consultant.